Rio Grande program to lose its vital funding - Albuquerque Journal

Rio Grande program to lose its vital funding

As Central New Mexico enters an unprecedented drought year, we are at risk of losing one of our most important tools for monitoring the health of the Rio Grande.

For the past quarter century, the Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program – BEMP to its friends and supporters – has collected data on 160 miles of Rio Grande riverside. Formed through a partnership between the University of New Mexico and Bosque School, BEMP has also brought more than 100,000 K-12 students into the bosque, collecting important scientific data while learning about their natural world.

Students count bugs and measure fallen leaves and the depth to groundwater. The data helps us understand the evolution of the bosque, while they gain hands-on science experience.

It is hard to overstate the importance of the results. Students in my own program – the University of New Mexico Water Resources Program – have leveraged BEMP’s work to study the threatened riverside ecosystem.

But that is only the tip of the BEMP iceberg. Much of our understanding of how Albuquerque’s precious riverside ecosystem functions is due to the careful, diligent, ongoing data collection by BEMP staff and the students they bring to the bosque.

The threat to BEMP comes from a shift in federal priorities. For much of its life, BEMP has been dependent on the generosity of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency that operates Cochiti Dam and carries the bulk of the responsibility for Rio Grande flood control. Corps funding provides two thirds of BEMP’s budget.

At the end of the current fiscal year, shifting budget priorities mean the Corps funding will go away. Without that money, BEMP’s staff will have to be cut from 16 scientists and educators to just five. The number of long-term monitoring sites will drop from 33 to 10. BEMP’s scientific importance, the thing that makes its data so valuable, lies in the continuity of its datasets. From a scientific and land management perspective, this would be a devastating loss.

But even more important may be the community value we all receive from the steady flow of K-12 students into the bosque – learning about science and the natural world firsthand. Some students would still get the BEMP experience, but far fewer.

Some have criticized the Corps for its decision to shift its funding away from BEMP, but I think that is unfair. Instead, we should praise the agency for the support it has provided for all these years. We all have benefitted from the Corps’ generosity.

We need to find a solution before the current fiscal year ends Sept. 30. In the long run, members of the state’s congressional delegation are pursuing alternative sources of funding. But, in the short term, the only option may be to impose on the generosity of the Corps for one more year while we put together sustainable, long-term funding.

Visiting the bosque one recent Saturday, as I watched river flows dropping because of this year’s drought, I was pondering the fate of the cottonwood. Former UNM Water Resources Program student Tom Heller used BEMP data to study how the groundwater beneath my feet declined as the river dropped – crucial to the fate and future of our beloved bosque. Without BEMP, we would not have known what Tom helped us learn.

Home » Opinion » Guest Columns » Rio Grande program to lose its vital funding


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
Inflation complicating tough-on-China arguments
ABQnews Seeker
When a country exports more to ... When a country exports more to other nations than it imports, that country is said to have a trade s ...
2
Texas begins patchwork of social media regulation
ABQnews Seeker
In the decades following the end ... In the decades following the end of the shooting part of the Civil War, midwestern farmers shipped t ...
3
ABQ event gives solar its day in the sun
ABQnews Seeker
National conference, Solar Fiesta, highlight progress ... National conference, Solar Fiesta, highlight progress and challenges to industry ...
4
Court records: Murder suspect works for DEA
ABQnews Seeker
Man charged in shooting death was ... Man charged in shooting death was confidential informant for federal agency
5
NM abortion clinic fields calls from Texas; schedules 'about ...
ABQnews Seeker
New spotlight makes them wary of ... New spotlight makes them wary of the longevity of the state's new role as a haven for abortion care
6
Court records show murder suspect worked for DEA
ABQnews Seeker
Man charged in shooting death was ... Man charged in shooting death was confidential informant for federal agency
7
APD seeks help identifying teen girls killed
ABQnews Seeker
Two young women die in suspicious ... Two young women die in suspicious crash near Central and Tingley
8
APD lieutenant fired in scandal reinstated
ABQnews Seeker
Accusations of overtime abuse led to ... Accusations of overtime abuse led to firing in November last year
9
Brave hearts
ABQnews Seeker
Man's ancestor signed 1776 Declaration of ... Man's ancestor signed 1776 Declaration of Independence